Negative Impact of Plastic Bags

Letsbeegreener’s aim is to encourage people to reduce their use of plastic bags.

Plastic bags have been popular for many years because they are relatively cheap to produce, waterproof and durable. However, it’s their durability that makes them so unsuitable as disposable items. They are made from polyethylene, a product of petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource. They are not biodegradable and are almost indestructible. They take an incredibly long time to break down and when they do, it’s into a “plastic dust” which contaminates animal life, the soil and the water, the oceans and the seas, forever.

Around a trillion plastic bags are used world wide every year (10 billion in the UK alone). They are environmentally unfriendly in the extreme, filling up landfills, blocking drains, littering the land and the oceans

Many plastic bags are not recycled; they are dumped in landfills and escape into the environment by wind or water action. In South Africa, plastic bag litter is so common it is called the ‘national flower’.

Plastic bag litter has a devastating effect on animals, birds and marine life. They mistake them for food & die after ingesting plastic bags which have obstructed their digestive systems. Birds become trapped in plastic bags hanging off bushes and trees. Whales, seals, turtles and countless fish become entangled in them & suffocate or starve to death as a result. Prior to death, they probably suffer severe discomfort and pain. After death, their bodies decompose and the plastic is released back into the environment where it may kill again.

Plant life on land is smothered and killed by plastic bag litter. In the oceans not all plastic floats, much of it sinks to the bottom where it smothers and kills marine plant life as well.


*Use long lasting biodegradable shopping bags: Natural cotton shopping bags are an excellent alternative to single use plastic shopping bags.

*Re-use: All plastic bags, including any existing plastic single use bags in the home or business, should be re-used as often as possible, then recycled when no longer usable.

*Recycle: This seems obvious and it may be assumed that everyone is already recycling, however, many are not.

*Compost: Reduce the numbers of plastic bin liners you use by composting all biodegradable waste e.g. egg shells, fruit, vegetables etc.

*Pick up plastic bag litter: Discard any litter picked up responsibly e.g. in a recycle bin.

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